My husband’s medicines seem to be working, and his tremor is doing much better. As a result, he decided to trim up his beard-not trusting me with a razor, probably wisely so. However, some impulse struck him and he decided to shave off everything except his eyebrows, revealing a face I haven’t seen in about twenty years.
To say I was shocked when I saw him would be an understatement. I exclaimed over it, giving him just the response he was hoping for, I presume. I stroked his clean face repeatedly, marveled over how different he looks, and joked that I felt like I was having an extramarital affair.
I hate it.
I absolutely hate it.
His face looks so damn vulnerable. His eyes look too big. The hollows in his cheeks are too visible, and I can’t pretend not to see them now. Its just too easy to see the skull under the skin.
I broke down in the shower, thinking about his face. That’s where I do most of my breaking down-to avoid conversations with him and my daughter that I do not wish to have.
When we were married, and I was 22 to his 39, the 17 year gap seemed like nothing at all. He’s never seemed that much older to me than he does now that we're 44 and 61. And I knew that it would mean more as we aged together-I’ve never fooled myself about that. My good friend, godmother to my oldest daughter, asked me if I minded the possibility of being a youngish widow, and I acknowledged that it was possible, in that same throw away fashion that you use when you acknowledge that you COULD be hit by a car, but really... But I never thought I would be preparing myself for my husband’s possible demise as early as I am doing. His health has deteriorated so much in the past six years. If I’m honest, it coincided with our move to Wisconsin and my entry into full time solo pastoral ministry, and I can’t help but search for connections there, whether they exist or not. His petite mals are frustrating and his grande mals are terrifying. They don't know what causes them or what triggers them, and the drug cocktail changes often as the side effects mount. I could have him another twenty years, or he could have a severe seizure tomorrow that he does not come out of. Nothing is certain, but then again, nothing ever is in our lives. If I had known almost 23 years ago where we would be now, I'd still have married him, because I wouldn't know, couldn't know, how it would make me feel, how much it really hurts to see someone you love fall apart in slow motion. My life has always been pretty much without such issues. I should have been more grateful. I guess I am grateful.
But his face hanging out as it is doing now takes all my intentions and aspirations to acceptance and makes them helpless to stand against the anticipated shock and sorrow. His beard served as a bulwark against his deterioration and I had no idea how much I relied upon it until it was gone. Now my throat gets tight when I rub my cheek against his, and I cannot truly celebrate what, for him,is an accomplishment.
I want him back. I want what was. I want to quit sobbing in the shower.
I want the beard and the illusion it perpetuated.